Why a Cloudhopper?

by John Ninomiya


Just Me

Flying by youself may be one of the one of the greatest unrealized pleasures in ballooning.  Undeniably, sharing ballooning with awesruck first-timers and faithful crew is a wonderful thing.  So is flying by yourself.  Many pilots get to solo only as required for their license; otherwise, having recruited several crew people to help them set up an aircraft that will clearly accomodate several additional passengers, most pilots are justifiably shy about proposing that they should fly alone.  With a Cloudhopper, the crew requirement drops to one person -- or, if you have balloonist friends who will pick you up after they fly, you may not need your own crew at all.   Flying by yourself becomes practical.  Unless you're really pathologically gregarious, you probably enjoy some occasional time by yourself, and with a Cloudhopper, you discover that flying a balloon is a wonderful way to spend that time.

Big New Hopper Sprite Three.gif (16969 bytes)

On a Clear Day

The first thing you notice when you get into a Cloudhopper is -- that there's nothing to get into.  You're wearing your harness; the fuel tank is out of sight behind you.  Overhead is your burner and your balloon; everywhere else around you is the earth and the sky.    You can see everything.   You're not "in" a vehicle -- you and your balloon are part of the sky.   Ultimately, a Cloudhopper harness becomes the most comfortable and natural way to fly: when you go back to flying with a basket, you find yourself thinking how dangerous it is not to be strapped in securely to your balloon.

At the Hop

One of my favorite things to do with my Cloudhopper is to drop down into a large open field where there's a gentle breeze blowing.  I let my feet touch the ground.   Pushed by the wind, the balloon leans out ahead of me.  I jump, rising and swinging under the balloon.   If I've timed it just right, when I reach the forward part of my swing, my feet touch the ground again.  I let the balloon swing in front of me again, and jump.  In that way, I move along at the speed of the wind in giant twenty-foot leaps.  It's challenging to get the timing and the force of your jumps coordinated to the wind speed, but when you do, it's exhilarating, and totally unlike any other flying experience you'll ever have.

For a more technical discussion of Cloudhoppers, see the Cloudhopper FAQs Page.

A Note on Terminology

I've used the term "Cloudhopper" generically here -- it's what the earliest systems of this type were called, and is the name still used by several manufacturers.  Generically, I'm talking about small, solo, degondolized (basketless) hot-air balloons.  The term "hang balloon" is also sometimes used -- which is not particularly descriptive (all balloons carry payload "hanging" from the envelope) and sounds like some type of capital punishment.   Anyway, I use the term "Cloudhopper" in an enlightened, inclusive way -- if you fly a small balloon without a basket, consider yourself included!

My Cloudhoppers

I have two Cloudhoppers: Dancer, a Thunder & Colt, and Fascination, a Lindstrand.  Dancer is a 21,000 ft3 system with a ten gallon fuel tank.   Fascination is a 31,000 ft3 system wih a fifteen gallon fuel tank.  Below are some photos of my Cloudhoppers.

Cloudh01.jpg (14816 bytes)

Fascination, Bare Hill Pond, Harvard, Massachusetts (cover photo, Balloon LIfe)
wpe34602.gif (23279 bytes) wpe11157.gif (16766 bytes) wpe12822.gif (22902 bytes)
Dancer, Afternoon flight, Del Mar, California
At the Hop!
Over the clouds, Roxbury, Connecticut
wpe86916.gif (24012 bytes) wpe31860.gif (34716 bytes) wpe05494.gif (25038 bytes) wpe02167.gif (23861 bytes)
In an orchard, Tracy, California
Eagle in a tree, Chatfield Reservoir, Denver, Colorado
Dusk, Del Mar, California
Climbing the Red Rocks, Gallup, New Mexico
wpe33758.gif (21359 bytes) wpe72323.gif (30917 bytes) Cloudh9.jpg (9397 bytes) Cloudh10.jpg (6220 bytes)
Above Salmon, Idaho
Check out my pink hat and huge quadriceps -- uh, no, I guess that's Ernie.
SCABS Del Mar New Year's Eve Glow, Midnight, 1998-9

For more cloudhopper pictures, see

HOPPERMANIA 2003 Postcards : Photo greetings from places where hoppers fly

Sightings Blurb 2.gif (1535 bytes)

Other cloudhoppers and  their pilots

Hop on Top: Getting a Lift on Top of Necessity,  my "Basket Balloon"

wpe05108.gif (24501 bytes) wpe22594.gif (18632 bytes)

cloudh8.jpg (14960 bytes)

Holding on for inflation
Riding on Necessity (Lindstrand 90A)
View from the Lindstrand Planet
The flight depicted above was made with the consent of both pilots, without paid passengers, and qualifies as legal formation flying under FAR 91.111.
Cloudhopper FAQs Sightings HopperTech Gallery
Links and References About Us/Contact Us




Version 1.04, 1/13/03